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The Amulet of Samarkand (2003)

by Jonathan Stroud

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bartimaeus Sequence (1)

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7,863240832 (4.03)341
Nathaniel, a magician's apprentice, summons up the djinni Bartimaeus and instructs him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the powerful magician Simon Lovelace.
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» See also 341 mentions

English (226)  German (8)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Vietnamese (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (240)
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And then, as if written by the hand of a bad novelist, an incredible thing happened.

[b:The Amulet of Samarkand|334123|The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)|Jonathan Stroud|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1528705815s/334123.jpg|1121748] is a fun book. It feels someone like a grittier Harry Potter, where instead of the bright and shiny flick of a wand, you summon demons. Instead of a fantastic hidden castle in the woods, you have Arthur Underwood--imagine if Harry was tutored throughout his magical career by a slightly more competent Vernon Dursley. And instead of a dark wizard coming to kill you because of an accident of your birth... well, Nathaniel does a pretty good job of bringing trouble down upon his own head.

That being said, it's actually a fun read--so long as you enjoy a rather snarky sense of humor. In particular, the counterpoint between Nathaniel (eleven year old magician in training, sound familiar?) and Bartimaeus (a relatively powerful djinni he summons to assist him in all manners of trouble) is pretty interesting.

The writing style is different enough that you can always remember whose head you're in. The sheer amount of snark coming out of Bartimaeus directed towards his current master is amusing, especially when you start to get the feeling that the former may actually feel a bit protective of the former. Bartimaeus really is going to be the reason you either love or hate this book.

One thing that I did particularly enjoy about the book was the magic system. The idea is that magicians can do a bit on their own, but most of their power comes from the 'demons' they summon--the more power you want, the more powerful / risky species of demon you have to summon. Seems fairly solid.

That did it. I'd gone through a lot in the past few days. Everyone I met seemed to want a piece of me: djinn, magicians, humans...it made no difference.I'd been summoned, manhandled, shot at, captured, constricted, bossed about and generally taken for granted. And now, to cap it all, this bloke is joining in too, when all I'd been doing was quietly trying to kill him. ( )
  jpv0 | Jul 21, 2021 |
All I think about is how the flaw of the main character made an impact to the turn of events in the story. ( )
  DzejnCrvena | Apr 2, 2021 |
In an alternate modern day London a young boy, Nathaniel is busy summoning what he would call a demon. Bartimaeus, the being summoned prefers the term djinni (genie), but he’d actually prefer not to be summoned at all. He’ll do anything he can to free himself from his master’s control. Especially when he learns that Nathaniel wants him to steal a very valuable amulet from a powerful amulet. But if Nathaniel remains careful and keeps to the rules then Bartimaeus must obey or face punishment and pain. Obeying also has its own worries, the guardians and security around the amulet. Not to mention the fact that the other djinn might learn that his master is all of eleven years old. Slightly embarrassing when you are a 5,000 year old djinni.

Full review: http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2006/08/30/the-amulet-of-samarkand/ ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
I very much enjoyed this book--I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator had the most wonderful voice. The character of Bartimaeus was the chief joy of the book for me--arrogant and cheeky and sly, as a demon should be, with a personality as big as his notion of his own wonderfulness. I didn't like the main human character, Nathaniel, as much, but have hopes that he might improve (that is, become less whiny and self-pitying) in later books. ( )
  sdramsey | Dec 14, 2020 |
[This is a review I wrote in 2010]

** OK, but not as exciting as some of the competition**

Considering the number of 5 star reviews, both for this book as a stand-alone and for the trilogy as a whole, I may be risking some unfavourable feedback for posting my candid views, but here goes anyway.

The plot has been outlined very well in so many reviews - so for this review I will skip the plot summary. Personally I found it to be an 'OK' read, but that's all. I read and enjoy a lot of children's fantasy, amongst many other genres too, but I just didn't seem to click with 'The Amulet of Samarkand'. It started off well with a great beginning - some super descriptive first-person narration from the first main character, the djinni (spirit) Bartimaeus. After a while though I found my interest waning, the plot slowing (or repetetive) and I found it necessary to speed read a few paragraphs to keep it moving, whereas usually when I read novels I like to savour every word and keep my reading at a slower pace.

Bartimaeus begins as a well-drawn, witty, comic, feisty character and there's a lot to like about him initially; Nathaniel, the second main character, is a 12 year old boy with a lot of spirit and courage. Brow-beaten by his adoptive father, who assumes the boy will have the same lacklustre magical skill level as himself, Nathaniel sets out to learn his craft alone from studying the books in Mr Underwood's library. Both characters start with great promise, but I found that as I kept reading they didn't really shine and develop into anything more substantial than I found in the first few pages - more 2D than 3D, and they certainly didn't leap off the page for me. Nathaniel is slightly inconsistent in character and towards the end it's a job to know whether he's extremely naive and oblivious to occurences around him, or if he's turned into a hard-nosed, self-satisfied young magician.

I very quickly found the author's use of footnotes at the bottom of the pages to be an irritation. You don't need to read them for the story to make sense, and whilst the one line notes were okay, some of them are full paragraphs and pretty extensive. By the time you've read these long ones and returned to the story, 9 times out of 10 the plot has lost momentum and you're left feeling a bit cheated at being turned away from the action for a fairly irrelevant snippet of trivia. The alternative chapters - Bartimaeus, Nathaniel, Bartimeus, Nathaniel etc. - work well and provide differing perspectives, but I personally felt that Nathaniel's chapters might have generated more empathy from me if they were written in the first person (they are narrated in the 3rd); whereas Bartimaeus in the first person isn't quite so necessary at all times, since he is a djinni, or demon spirit, and it's perhaps not so important to empathise with the djinni. The format has obviously worked well for so many other readers so I'm hesitant to suggest this, but I might have preferred the book with Nathaniel narrated in the first person to generate more empathy. Who knows, perhaps Jonathan Stroud tried this as he was writing the book and it didn't work out. Either way, it's only my preference.

Perhaps I'll take a look at books 2 and 3 to see how the story develops, but I wasn't gripped by this book in the same way that other's children's fantasy writers have had me turning pages. I can recommend Garth Nix's Abhorsen books, Michael Scott's truly brilliant Nicholas Flamel series, Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, the first Tom Scatterhorn book by Henry Chancellor (but not the 2nd), Robin Hobb's Farseer books (suits adults and younger readers who enjoy long novels), Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Northern Lights, and Harry Potter I loved... only 3 stars for 'The Amulet of Samarkand' though *** ( )
  ArdizzoneFan | Nov 20, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Stroudprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grant, MelvynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nathaniel, a magician's apprentice, summons up the djinni Bartimaeus and instructs him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the powerful magician Simon Lovelace.

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Book description
Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice, taking his first lessons in the arts of magic. But when a devious hotshot wizard named Simon Lovelace ruthlessly humiliates Nathaniel in front of everyone he knows, Nathaniel decides to kick up his education a few notches and show Lovelace who's boss. With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all: summoning the all-powerful djinni, Bartimaeus. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, blackmail, and revolt.
Haiku summary
Wizards rule England
with help of pouting demons.
Man, they're sarcastic.

A young magician
and his mischievous djinni
foil conspiracy.

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